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Finding your niche as a writer.

I’m putting the finishing touches on a project right at the moment, so we’ll be taking a break from interviewing agents and authors for a bit. I thought that this week, I’d write a post about an issue I’m dealing with right now as a writer. I hope you enjoy it!

As a writer, I’ve struggled to find my niche, my writer-ly “home”. I’m sure I’m not the only writer who has this issue. If you discuss this problem with another writer, in all likelihood they’ll tell you to write what you love to read.

But now we’ve come to my problem. If you’re like me, you love to read everything. And I mean I read EVERYTHING. My favorite genres to read are literary fiction, women’s fiction, romance, YA, and MG, but I also read thrillers, mysteries, and a little horror. I read a lot of the classics, too. I love everything and read voraciously. To some extent, I love to write everything as well. So how do I know what I should be writing? In what genre will my writer’s voice ring the truest and produce the most compelling story?

I hate to say it, but there is no easy answer to this question. It’s really become a trial and error process at this point for me. I write a story, let it sit for a while, and then I go over it. I look to see if the voice rings true, if it sounds believable. I look to see if the plot is strong, if it compels me to read to the end. And I think about whether or not I enjoyed writing the book. I’ve even started to keep track of my word count per minute as I’m writing, on the assumption that the faster I write, the more “in the zone” I am.

But I think that ultimately, if you’re struggling to find your niche, you might not be able to find it on you own. In the end you’ll need the feedback of industry professionals, like your agent or editor to tell you what works. And above all, you’ll need to find a genre and voice that resonates with your readers. They will be your purest judges.

What about you? Have you struggled to find your niche as a writer? Have you found it? Do you have any tips or suggestions for other writers that are struggling with this problem?

Being a writer means doing nothing…

I know, that sounds odd, doesn’t it? But to some extent, it’s true. Today, if you had watched me, you’ve wouldn’t have seen me do anything writer-ly. My son and I went for an autumn walk and pressed fallen leaves between wax paper. We washed dishes and made batter for homemade donuts. During nap time, I watched the beginning of Jane Eyre, the version made for Masterpiece Theater, on PBS. To the untrained eye, it would have looked like I wasn’t working. But I was.

To some extent, I’m relaxing too. My first book is officially published, and my revisions for my second, unrelated novel, have been sent in to my agent. There isn’t really anything to do until she gets back to me. So what was I doing today?

I was thinking, imagining, stewing. All the possible ideas I’ve had swirling in my head for months have suddenly become more prominent, more demanding. Characters are knocking on my brain, demanding attention. I’ve begun dreaming about them, about some of the story sparks I have.

This is my absolute favorite part of being a writer; the choosing of the next story, the fleshing out of the characters, the imagining. There are endless possibilities in front of me, all bright and sparkling and new. Which will I pick? What will I create? What will the final product be like? At this point, no one knows, not even me…

What about you? What’s your favorite part of writing?

Win a free copy of my book!

Four days to go until the big book release everybody! To celebrate, I’m going to do a giveaway of my book! If you’d like to win a free digital copy of my book (remember, the print version doesn’t release until December!), please use the “contact me” form to send me your name and email address, along with a message that says something like “contest entry”. All entries must be received by September 13th, 11:59 pm Central Standard Time.  I’ll announce the winner either Friday the 14th or Monday the 17th.

Also, I’m thinking of holding a critique contest at the end of September (if I finish my revisions!). I’d critique ten pages, about 2,500 words, of the winner’s manuscript. Would anyone be interested in that?

In other news, I’ve been plugging along, just trying to keep my head above water. We’re in the middle of potty training our son, and let  me tell you it’s a LOT of work. I’m in the 26th week of my pregnancy, and I’m trying to keep our house spick and span, because it’s for sale. My husband has a new job this summer and is working 12-14 hour days. I’m crazy busy doing publicity for my book, and working frantically on revising my second book for my agent. I’ve decided to take your advice, my dear readers. If I don’t have my revisions done by September the 18th, I’m going to break down and ask my parents to come stay and help me. It turns out, I’m NOT Super Woman, and I CAN’T do everything myself! 🙂 Who knew!?!?

I also wanted to send a mass apology to all of you readers who have left comments and emails for me. I’m sorry I haven’t gotten back to them. It’s not because I don’t appreciate and love you all. It’s because I often find myself asleep with my head on my desk, with no idea how it got there! I do plan on trying to answer some of them over the next few days…

No rest for the weary! I’m off to do some more work. Have a beautiful day everyone!

Five ways to hook your readers with your writing.

1. Use characterization to show why your readers should care about your character- This is probably the most important thing you can do on the first few pages. Your reader wants to feel connected to your character. They want to have strong emotions for your character, whether good or bad. It’s very important to drop in those little, telling details so that they immediately get a sense of who your character is and what they are up against.

2. Don’t just rely on sight, use your other senses as well- Sure, sight is your go-to sense in fiction, but touch, smell, taste, and hearing will do more to draw your reader in. I like to combine a sight observation with one of the other senses, i.e. “The skeletal tree branches scratched at the sky while the musty, sweet smell of rotting leaves threatened to choke her.”

3. Keep the pace fairly quick in your first few opening scenes- Unless you’re writing literary fiction (which is a whole other kettle of fish), you want to keep your pace quick. Keep you reader turning the pages. Don’t let them put your book down.

4. Make sure you have tension laced liberally through your writing- This is a must. You need to have tension from the very beginning. Whether it’s one little detail that tells the reader something isn’t quite right in your characters world, or a massive disaster, make sure the stakes are high for your character.

5. Don’t use long chunks of description or prose at the beginning (unless you are writing literary fiction)- Make sure there is a fair amount of white space; that means dialogue, people! Dialogue is a great way to get a sense of who your character is and will also help quicken the pace of your story.

For more on this topic, there are two books I highly recommend. I’ve had them both in my writing library for years, and refer to them often:

Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go by Les Edgerton

The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman

Do you ever purposely break the rules of grammar?

I’ve been frantically working on my first round of edits with my editor for my novel. I’ve rewritten the beginning and am about 240 pages into my edits. Editing has actually raised a lot of questions for me, especially about my own personal writing style. So my question to you today is; do you ever purposely break the rules of grammar when you’re writing?

I do. The one I break the most is that of using “then” as a conjunction. I know “then” is not a proper conjunction. I know that to be correct you have to use “and then”.

“The woman smiled at her, blood dripping from her eyes, and then lunged.”

But to me, it sounds more fluid, more elegant to remove the “and”.

“The woman smiled at her, blood dripping from her eyes, then lunged.”

Let me tell you, my editor doesn’t like it. So the question is, do you break the rules to make your writing sound the way you want it to? Or do you follow the rules, because they ARE the rules, and you are just a new author? What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinion.

Writing Stagnancy: The First Few Pages

Well, I did it! I started my next story and have about 1,200 words under my belt. I had hoped to get more done yesterday, but I forgot one major thing; that I would have to break through my writing stagnancy.

 

I wrote the last pages of my rough draft of my last novel somewhere around the second week of December. Yes, I’ve done revisions and added scenes. Yes, I wrote a synopsis and query letter. Yes, I started plotting this novel and writing character sketches. None of that is the same as sitting down and starting to really write again.

 

I don’t know about you, but it’ll take me a while to break through that stagnancy and get the words flowing well again. Twenty pages, maybe, or a week of writing everyday, at the minimum. At some point, I’ll get into the story and the words will come easily, like I’m watching a movie in my head and they’re leaking out of my ears and onto the page. But it’s not happening yet.

 

At this moment in time, every word is a struggle. I can’t quite see the novel yet; it’s murky and not quite in focus. And until I do, I’ll plod away, thinking about each character, each word, each scene, wondering if it’s okay.

 

If you suffer from this problem too, here is my advice to you: DO NOT reread what you have written until the words have started to flow. It will be crap. You will be able to sense yourself laboring away within each word. And until the words began to flow, you will not be able to revise it satisfactorily. So leave it alone, keep writing crap, and within a few days, you’ll have a clear, fast-moving river of words pulling you toward your conclusion. Do not give up. Just keep going.